2 Corinthians 4:1–3 – 1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.
In this section of Scripture, Paul is describing some of how he and his associates have done ministry in Corinth. The apostle has recently highlighted how much superior the New Covenant is to the Old. And Paul has indicated that the presence of the Spirit of God who gives life rather than the letter of law that kills is something we celebrate.
In that context, Paul points out that he and his friends share the word of God without losing heart (v1). They will not be thrown off by those who are blinded so as not to believe (v3). And, as we see in verse 2, Paul will not use disgraceful or underhanded practices for the sake of ministry. Paul says that he and his associates refuse to practice cunning and to tamper with God’s word. Instead, Paul presents an open statement of the truth.
It is verse 2 that leaps out at me for application. There is no place in Christian ministry for disgraceful or underhanded practices. There is no place for sinning to grow the ministry. I think that Paul is pretty clear as to what that sort of disgraceful thing would be. There is no place for tampering with the word of God. Instead, there is only a call by God for faithful, honest proclamation of the word.
How different does a ministry look when it will not tamper with the word of God? Such a ministry would be one that tells the truth of God’s word without varnish. Such a ministry would not hide things in Scripture that are out of favor with society. While this ministry ought not be nasty and harsh, those in the ministry must be honest and simply proclaim the word of god as written. And, as we see in our present cultural moment, that will include the church saying things that would have our society turn against us for refusing to embrace their values.
Does your church use underhanded means? Is there something sneaky about what you do? Think it through more carefully. What does your church proclaim? What does your church try to hide? What does your church present to the community as essential to the Christian life? Is your church grown on the word of God and its proclamation, or are other strategies more central to your church’s growth? What things does your church do that have nothing to do with Scripture which, if they were removed, would make you feel like your ministry has been deeply harmed? What tools, if taken from your church’s toolbox, would make you feel like your church lost its identity. Would your church still be your church if faithful proclamation of the word of God was all you could do and all the rest was stripped away?
In the ministry we do, may we only ever be faithful. May we not be underhanded. May we never tamper with the word. May we proclaim God’s word honestly. Some will believe. Some will not. But what is most important is that we are faithful to the Lord in accord with the perfect word he has revealed.